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What others say: Another Haitian setback

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 29 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

In this Nov. 28, 2011 file photo, Haiti's President Michel Martelly, right, speaks with Haiti's Prime Minister Garry Conille at a ceremony on the outskirts of Cap Haitien, Haiti. Prime Minister Garry Conille resigned on Friday Feb. 24, 2012, according to a government official.

Associated Press

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The following editorial appeared recently in the Miami Herald:

Well, that didn't take long. In office only four months, Prime Minister Garry Conille of Haiti resigned Friday under pressure from President Michel Martelly. This is a huge setback for Haiti as it continues to struggle with recovery efforts following the January 2010 earthquake.

Conille's principal failing was his unwillingness to play ball with Haiti's powerful insiders. Lacking the time in office to establish himself as a political player with his own network of supporters, he had no help when his enemies pounced. When Martelly turned against him and ordered cabinet ministers to follow suit, it left him little room to maneuver.

In a rare message of commendation for someone in office for such a short period, the U.S. Embassy in Haiti noted "the efforts, insight and energy demonstrated by the Prime Minister Garry Conille during the last four months" and expressed regret that Haiti could no longer benefit from his services. Similarly, the head of Haiti's U.N. mission said on the eve of Conille's departure that "a series of repeated crises between the executive and legislative powers" has undermined the democratic process.

That's the polite language used in diplomacy to say, "What a mess!"

Conille's departure once again leaves Haiti without an effective government. Martelly may be fully content to run the government by himself under de facto one-man rule in the executive, but the Constitution in Haiti requires a prime minister. More fundamentally, democracy is about sharing power, apparently an alien concept for Martelly.

Garry Conille was not his first choice. It took five months before Martelly could be convinced to select him in an effort to persuade the international community that a serious and responsible official would be taking over the reins as CEO of government with Martelly looking over his shoulder as president.

Armed with that reassurance, the international community and the people of Haiti could focus on what really matters: Obtaining the financing and preparation for rebuilding Haiti and creating a viable economy.

Progress has been made in that direction in the last few months, giving rise to the hope that 2012 would be a turning point, but now Haiti is back to Square One. What Haiti needs now is yet another prime minister who can attract international confidence, but that's easier said than done.

Conille wanted to investigate spending practices and reconstruction contracts let by his predecessor, but Martelly had no misgivings over them, and that became his undoing. As much as anything, the pressure for him to resign is a message to his eventual successor about what not to do: provide transparent governance.

Apparently, even a cataclysmic earthquake can't make Haiti's leaders shake the politics of the past.

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